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Lena C. Emery is a visual artist whose practice is primarily based in photography. Born in Germany and raised between Asia and Europe, Emery’s nuanced aesthetic mirrors her itinerant upbringing. Her work is permeated with Japanese influences which stem from a deep appreciation of animistic and aesthetic philosophies.
Emery studied Fine Arts at Parsons Paris, where she received a partial scholarship, and completed her studies in Berlin. She lives and works in London since 2011.
Emery’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at institutions such as Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art in London, Annenberg Space of Photography in New York and the Asama International Photo Festival in Japan. Her images have been included in books by Gestalten, Rizzoli and SPBH Editions.
The British Journal of Photography selected her first monograph Rie (publ. Kominek) as one of the most engaging & exciting projects of 2016, as featured on their noteworthy photographers issue cover in 2017.
‘When I first picked up Rie, I immediately knew this wasn’t an ordinary book of nudes. This openness creates pictures much like a breath of fresh air. Emery is certainly a portraitist and bookmaker whose work I will continue to keep an eye on.’
– Todd Hido, Photographer
Her second book Yuka & The Forest (publ. Art Paper Editions, printed on 100% recycled paper) which draws on Japan’s powerful cultural connection to forests, was exhibited within the Prix du Livre d’Auteur in Arles in 2019 and included in the BJP’s nature issue 2020 over 12 pages. 30% of profits from book sales were donated to the World Wide Fund For Nature.
‘In the battle of representation, Emery’s work surrounding the climate crisis has returned to a place that is quieter, somewhere a little less painful but at the same time doesn’t let us forget the dark weight that is pressing down on the world. Her images show a place that is some distance from the entrenched view of humans as subject and the world as an object, and offers a renewed perception of symbiosis.’
– Kris Kozlowski Moore on ‘Yuka & The Forest’
Most recently her project Tenchi: Building a Bridge Between Heaven and Earth was highlighted by Christiana Figures, former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and leader of the COP 21 that led to the Paris Agreement, as she discussed the role of photography & the arts in understanding the climate crisis within the BJP’s Decade of Change Issue 2021.
Emery’s has been commissioned by publications including British Vogue, Dazed, M Le Magazine du Monde, Pleasure Garden, Pop, Purple, System, The Gentlewoman and the WSJ. Her commercial commissions include Chanel, Chloe, Dior, Helmut Lang, Hermes, La Perla, Lemaire, Stella McCartney, & Tiffany & Co.
‘As a child I came across the volumes of naturalist, artist and author Joy Adamson in my grandmother’s bookshelf who wrote: “Since we humans have the better brain, isn’t it our responsibility to protect our fellow creatures from, oddly enough, ourselves? Wildlife is something which man cannot construct. Once it is gone, it is gone forever. Man can rebuild a pyramid, but he can’t rebuild ecology, or a giraffe.” Inspired by her dedication to wildlife preservation in Kenya and the way she had documented her experiences and observations via paintings, photographs and writing, I moved to a small island in Southeast Sulawesi upon graduating from high school in Singapore. Due to my father’s work, I had been able to accompany him on his travels to about 15 countries by that time but never anywhere as isolated or remote. In the mid 90s, my father together with friends had become aware of an uninhabited island, its surrounding waters at the time heavily overfished. Optimistic about the reef’s potential, a dive resort and Wakatobi Collaborative Reef Conservation Program were born in 1998, now a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Through extensive conservation efforts Wakatobi is now one of the world’s largest privately-funded marine protected areas with the highest number of reef and fish species in the world. I have continued my research into the complex and problematic culture-nature dichotomy to inform my advocacy for a contingent responsibility on the part of governments, society and the individual to consider justice more broadly as something that depends not only on upholding the simultaneous common good of ourselves, but also of the non-human.’
– Lena C. Emery
For almost a decade Emery has been working closely with animal welfare and environmental groups RSPCA and Trees for Cities in London. Emery leads a plant based lifestyle and actively campaigns against the use of fur and exotic skins and does not work on projects where either are present.